The violence against Christians in Karnataka and Orissa has become an international issue with France expressing concern over the attacks during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit. Both the Sangh Parivar and the Union government are at loggerheads over the issue, with the former claiming that it is not an attack on Christians but a fight against conversions.
Professor M B Puranik, convenor of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Karnataka, spoke to Special Correspondent Vicky Nanjappa about the burning issue and how he felt that conversions was a larger issue since it "not only reduced a member of a community but also created a new enemy to the nation". He also spoke about the allegations that some right-wing outfits were involved in terror-related activities.
The attacks against Christians in both Orissa and Karnataka have taken international stage. France has expressed concern about the incidents. Don't you think this is embarrassing for the nation?
Firstly I would like to say that the VHP has always maintained that it was against conversions. But yes, we do strongly condemn the violence and feel that the issue should be sorted out through dialogue. Regarding the statements made by France, I want to ask, why have they chosen this issue only to speak about? The nation is facing a major crisis where terrorism is concerned. The US is supporting Pakistan which is allegedly a hub of terror activities. Why is the international community not reacting to that?
Orissa and Karnataka have suddenly come into the limelight thanks to the attacks on churches. What according to you has provoked the Hindu activists after so many years? Several Hindu activists maintain that conversion has been going on for a long time. Why the sudden provocation?
I do agree that conversion has been prevalent for a long time now. Hindus have been suppressed all these years. People have been taken to prayer halls forcibly and made to pray four to five times a week, again forcibly. Hindus have been watching all this for a long time. What made matters worse is the appeasement tactics by the government. Obviously this led to suppression of the Hindus and that is why there was this sudden reaction.
The right to religion is enshrined in our Constitution. So how can you stop anyone from following a religion?
Look, both Krishna and Jesus are Gods and we respect the religious sentiments of everyone. The question that we are asking is, why someone should force people to take up a certain religion? Why do a drama in the name of service to God and then end up converting people? If the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, the law also says forcible conversion is an offence.
Is there some kind of insecurity among Hindus? A strong person who has faith in his religion will not convert.
I do agree. We are not bothered about the religion that a man converts to. Once a Hindu converts, his loyalties too shift. Once a person is converted, his loyalty is to the Vatican. This means we lose one Hindu and gain an enemy in the bargain. Again let me make it clear, we have nothing against Christianity. We are just raising our voice against forcible conversion. The literature that some of these people are distributing puts other religions in a bad light.
Well, if the real fight is against conversions, then why are churches being attacked?
I strongly condemn the attacks on churches. Being convenor of the VHP, I had signed an agreement with Christian leaders that both communities will live in peace. Regarding the attacks, I can say that most were politically motivated. When some activists were protesting against conversions, vested interests in some cases have taken advantage and gone on a rampage. I blame the politicians for this.
There has been a finger pointed at some right-wing Hindu organisations regarding their role in a spate of terror activities. What are your thoughts about it?
Don't blame the Sangh Parivar without proof. I always have maintained that no one has the right to take the law into their hands.
There has been an outcry to ban the Bajrang Dal. What do you have to say about it?
Again, no one has the right to take the law into their hands. Those who do so ought to be punished. But let me tell you, is banning an organisation the solution? What do you gain by doing it? The Students Islamic Movement of India was banned. Did it root out terrorism in the country? First one has to get proof and then act upon it. That is the solution to the problem.